Robert F. Erburu, a business and arts community leader both in Southern California and nationally, died May 11, 2014, at his home in Santa Barbara. He was 83.
As an attorney, corporate CEO, civic leader, foundation trustee and patron of the arts, Bob set high standards and led by example, influencing generations of people in many walks of life.
Born in Ventura, Bob was a seventh-generation Californian proud of his Basque and Spanish heritage. His parents, Michael and Kathryn, raised Bob and his older brother, Lawrence, and sister, Barbara, in Ojai, where he was a basketball player at Nordhoff High School. At USC, Bob earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and was editor of the Daily Trojan. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1955.
Bob’s legal career began at Los Angeles law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. He then came to The Times Mirror Co. as their first in-house attorney in 1961. Bob became general counsel, president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board, succeeding Otis Chandler in 1986.
Under his leadership, Times Mirror grew from a regional newspaper and paper products company to a Fortune 500 media firm with nine newspapers — the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, the Dallas Times Herald, the Denver Post, the Hartford Courant, the Greenwich Time, the Baltimore Sun, The Morning Call and others — network television stations, cable TV, book and magazine publishers, and Jeppesen Sanderson. Bob retired in 1996 after 34 years with Times Mirror.
In an era when corporations were beginning to seem detached from local communities, Bob demonstrated a passionate commitment to Los Angeles and Southern California. He expected Times Mirror and its subsidiaries to be actively involved in the communities they served. He set an example in his business and nonprofit involvements of clear thinking, of seeking the long-term perspective, and of absolutely ethical behavior. Bob was extraordinarily loyal to his friends and colleagues and a humane manager who genuinely cared about the people with whom he worked. The same characteristics were evident in his many national involvements.
Bob was also passionate about the arts and community organizations. He was chairman of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the National Gallery of Art, The Times Mirror Foundation, the Pacific Council on International Policy, the USC Board of Councilors of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Independent Colleges of Southern California and Marlborough School.
He served on the many other boards, including the Pfaffinger Foundation, The Ahmanson Foundation, The Fletcher Jones Foundation, the Skirball Cultural Center/Hebrew Union College, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation, YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, The Brookings Institution, the U.S. and Los Angeles Chambers of Commerce, the Business Council, the Council on Foreign Affairs and the L.A. World Affairs Council.
In the business world, Bob also chaired the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Newspaper Association of America and Marsh & McLennan; he served on the Boards of the Tejon Ranch and Cox Communications.
Bob and Lois, his beloved wife of 59 years, met at USC and raised two accomplished daughters, Susan and Lisa. Faith, family and friends were the cornerstone of their lives together. A devout Catholic, Bob was active in the affairs of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and was a member of the Knights of Malta and a Knight Commander of St. Gregory.
Bob cherished family gatherings and vacations. Bob and Lois’ love and appreciation of art took them on many international trips, especially to Italy. He had a lively sense of humor and a rich appreciation for the human comedy. His jovial laughter was good medicine for all who heard it. All this continued until several years ago, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Bob is survived by wife, Lois, daughters Susan Erburu Reardon Esq. (George) of South Pasadena and Dr. Lisa Erburu (Dr. Mark Cocalis) of Orinda, and grandchildren Luke Cocalis (Hilary), Rachel Cocalis, Laura Reardon and Daniel Reardon.
Mass will be celebrated Thursday, May 29 at 1:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St. in Los Angeles. Visitation will be Tuesday, May 27 from 4 to 5 p.m. at Welch-Ryce-Haider funeral home, 15 E. Sola St. in Santa Barbara. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Bob’s memory to The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101; or the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County (the Music Center), 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012.
Bob lived life to the fullest. He is now at peace.